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Medicare & Medicaid News for Senior Citizens

2011 Table of Contents


Medicare News

Hospitals Look to Post-Discharge Clinics to Help Hold Down Readmissions

Medicare may penalize hospitals with higher than expected 30-day readmission rates for pneumonia, heart failure, heart attack - see video

By Michelle Andrews, Insuring Your Health

See video on Revolving Door of Readmissions

Dec. 20, 2011 - For patients, the transition from hospital to home is a critical time. Discharged with follow-up instructions and often a fistful of medications, many need medical guidance. But too often a smooth handoff to a primary-care physician doesn't happen, and small recovery glitches become larger ones. The result: In short order the patient is often back in the hospital. Read more, see video...

Seniors with Chronic Conditions to Get Most Medicare Services at Home

Medicare testing if expanding services will improve care, lower costs for seniors and other disabled

Thankful senior ladyDec. 20, 2011 - Up to 10,000 Medicare patients with chronic conditions will now be able to get most of the care they need at home under a new demonstration announced today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Read more...

Medicare Enrollment is Still Open to Switch to 5-Star Medicare Advantage Plan

Medicare has new Special Enrollment Period for joining 5-star plans all year long

Dec. 15, 2011 – Just because Medicare kept us well informed about the Open Enrollment Period that ended Dec. 7 with an unrelenting flow of promotion, you may think enrollment is closed. It may even puzzle you that you are still seeing advertising from Medicare Advantage plans. Guess what? You can still switch plans, as long as it is to a 5-star plan. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Wyden-Ryan Plan Could Neutralize Medicare in 2012 Election: Analysis

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., unveiled new Medicare plan, would give seniors a fixed amount of money to buy private insurance or pay for traditional Medicare - plus video from GOP debate on Gingrich position

By Marilyn Werber Serafini, KHN Staff Writer

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., left, and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Dec. 16, 2011 - Even with just two congressional supporters, a new Medicare overhaul plan could have big implications for next year’s congressional election. Indeed, it could neutralize a political problem that has been plaguing Republicans since April, argues Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. Read more, see video...

Senior Citizen Politics

Rep. Ryan Joins with Democratic Senator Wayden to Take Another Shot at Medicare Reform

Senior advocates say it is still a voucher system and only winners would be private insurance companies

Dec. 15, 2011 – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who proposed converting Medicare to a system where senior citizens were given vouchers to buy health care protection, has joined with an Oregon Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, to propose a new idea for changing the government health care program. Senior advocates don’t seem to like the new plan better than Ryan’s first. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

CMS to Make Drug-Makers Disclose Dealings with Physicians: Senators Prompt Action

Senators Kohl, Grassley force action by agency on their bill which also includes other medical device-makers and teaching hospitals

Dec. 15, 2011 – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday issued a rule that will make public the often questionable financial relationships between drug and device manufacturers and certain health care providers. The action caused Sen. Herb Kohl, chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, to postpone a hearing scheduled today aimed at getting this long-delayed Physician Payments Sunshine Act implemented. Read more...

Medicaid News

Administration Ties Medicaid Private Care to Performance; More Control to States

Latest signal Feds will give broad leeway to states to expand Medicaid to private managed care if they meet performance measures

By Phil Galewitz,KHN Staff Writer

Dec 14, 2011 - The managed care industry's growing role in Medicaid got a boost Monday when the Obama administration approved Texas' plan to shift one million additional recipients into private health plans by 2013. Read more...

Medicare News

Feds Recover $2.9 Billion from Health Care Fraud; Cracking Down on Pain Drugs

Medicare drug plans to withhold payment when they see suspicious activity related to OxyContin, Percocet, other narcotics, painkillers

Dec. 14, 2011 - The Department of Justice recovered over $5.6 billion in total fraud in 2011, up 167 percent since 2008, and more than half of this - $2.9 billion – was health care fraud, according to an announcement yesterday by Vice President Joe Biden to a Cabinet meeting focused on the Administration’s effort to cut waste and eliminate misspent dollars. Read more...

Medicare Offers More Open Enrollment Time for Seniors Who Call Today

Only for seniors who contact any of several sources of assistance before close of business Wednesday and leave messages

By Susan Jaffe, KHN

Dec. 7, 2011 - Federal officials are extending the Dec. 7 deadline for three days for some people who have had trouble enrolling in a Medicare prescription drug or private health plan because of the crush of last-minute sign-ups. Read more...

Wednesday Last Day to Change Medicare Plans; Medicare Touts Savings for Seniors

Nearly three million people with Medicare receiving discounts on prescription drugs, 24.2 million receiving free preventive care

Click to Medicare Page to help find Medicare plansDec. 6, 2011 - Today, on the day before Open Enrollment for 2012 ends, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that as of November 1, more senior citizens and people with disabilities on Medicare have seen significantly lower costs for important health care – through both discounts on brand-name drugs in the Medicare Part D "donut hole" coverage gap and free preventive care. Read more...

Medicare Lifts Lid on Health Care Provider Data to Help Groups Make Better Choices

Health care law will allow consumer groups, others to compare options, find best value

Dec. 5, 2011 – Medicare has lifted the lid on tons of information gathered from the health care providers that take care of about 47 million senior citizens and disabled. It is now available to consumer groups, employers and other qualified organizations to be used to help them make better choices and recommendations about health care providers. Read more...

Medicare Advantage Plans Still Growing as Open Enrollment Nears End

December 7 last day to change, add health care, drug plans in Medicare for 2012; more gains in MAs expected

By Mary Agnes Carey, KHN Staff Writer

Dec. 4, 2011 - Despite predictions that last year’s health law would doom Medicare’s private insurance plans, it’s not happening – at least not yet. Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans continues to grow at a brisk pace, rising to 8.4 million beneficiaries by April 2011, about a 6 percent increase from April 2010, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Read more...

Medicare News

Departing CMS Administrator's Top Five Accomplishments Highlighted

In Don Berwick era CMS implemented large number of complex, sometimes controversial, rules implementing health reform law; Tavenner takes his job, gets GOP support

Dr. Donald Berwick, Administratior, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid ServicesDec. 4, 2011 – Last Friday was Donald Berwick's last day as administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Berwick, a 65-year-old senior citizen, a pediatrician, Harvard professor and well-known quality improvement expert, has served since July 2010. Read more...


Medicare Adds Obesity Screening, Counseling to Free Preventive Services

Benefit includes face-to-face counseling visit each week for a month, one visit every other week for an additional five months

Nov. 29, 2011 - Senior citizens struggling with obesity received welcomed news from Medicare today – the addition of obesity screening and counseling to the list of free preventive services that are now available without cost sharing under the Affordable Care Act. Read more...

Medicare's Drug Coverage Gap Shrinks with Health Care Law

11/28/11  (AP) - Medicare's prescription coverage gap is getting noticeably smaller and easier to manage this year for millions of older and disabled people with high drug costs.

The "doughnut hole," an anxiety-inducing catch in an otherwise popular benefit, will shrink about 40 percent for those unlucky enough to land in it, according to new Medicare figures provided in response to a request from The Associated Press.

The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901, according to Medicare's Office of the Actuary, which handles economic estimates.

A 50 percent discount that the law secured from pharmaceutical companies on brand name drugs yielded an average savings of $581. Medicare also picked up more of the cost of generic drugs, saving an additional $22. Read more from AP/Yahoo

Help Standing By for Senior Citizens as Deadline Nears for Changing Medicare Plans

December 7 deadline earlier than past years for changing drug and health plans in new year

Click to Medicare Page to help find Medicare plansNov. 28, 2011 - There have been more than 26 million pages views of the Medicare Plan Finder, since the open enrollment period for 2012 began on October 15. And, it mostly surely will be even busier as the December 7 deadline for changing Medicare drug and health plans for next year gets closer. Today Medicare reminded senior citizens today that there is a network of partners and advocates available to assist with counseling and enrolling beneficiaries. Read more...

That Other Shopping Spree: Medicare Deadline Looms

Senior citizens have until Dec. 7 to choose a Medicare Advantage or new Medicare prescription drug plan - see video, story for helpful ideas

By Christian Torres, KHN Blog Capsules

Nov. 25, 2011 - Black Friday is nearly upon us, and along with holiday gift shopping, there’s plenty of Medicare shopping to do over Thanksgiving weekend. Seniors have only two weeks left to choose a new Medicare Advantage or prescription drug plan, if they want to change from their current ones. Medicare’s open enrollment deadline was pushed up this year, from Dec. 31 to Dec. 7, as part of the 2010 federal health law. Read more, see video...

Medicare's Drug Coverage Gap Shrinks with Health Care Law

11/28/11  (AP) - Medicare's prescription coverage gap is getting noticeably smaller and easier to manage this year for millions of older and disabled people with high drug costs.

The "doughnut hole," an anxiety-inducing catch in an otherwise popular benefit, will shrink about 40 percent for those unlucky enough to land in it, according to new Medicare figures provided in response to a request from The Associated Press.

The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901, according to Medicare's Office of the Actuary, which handles economic estimates.

A 50 percent discount that the law secured from pharmaceutical companies on brand name drugs yielded an average savings of $581. Medicare also picked up more of the cost of generic drugs, saving an additional $22. Read more from AP/Yahoo

Medicare News

Obama Names Marilyn Tavenner to Replace Don Berwick as CMS Head

Berwick confirmation blocked by Republicans, instead got a recess appointment from Obama, expires Dec. 31, steps down Dec. 2.

By Mary Agnes Carey and Phil Galewitz,
KHN Staff Writers

Nov. 23, 2011 - President Barack Obama is nominating Marilyn Tavenner to succeed Donald M. Berwick as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Read more...

Medicare News

Health Leaders Prepare For Round Two Of Healthcare Spending Cuts

Super committee ideas to save money in Medicare include cutting payments to providers, beneficiaries paying more, increasing the eligibility age

By Marilyn Werber Serafini and Mary Agnes Carey,
KHN Staff Writers

Nov. 21, 2011 - Regardless of whether Congress' super committee meets its deadline for finding ways to reduce the federal deficit, budget and policy experts are braced for Washington soon to face the painful task of finding more savings - and they anticipate that health spending will be at the top of the list. Read more...

Medicare Drug Program News

Number of Medicare Part D Drugs Covered by Prescription Drug Plans Varies Widely

Better check your plan now - Patient cost sharing grows as increasing number of plans offer five-tier formularies

Nov. 17, 2011 – Senior citizens who have not taken advantage of the annual window – Medicare Open Enrollment – when Medicare allows seniors to change health and drug plans just got a new incentive to compare plans before the December 7 deadline. A new study by Avalere Health finds the number of drugs covered by plans varies widely and more costs are being pushed to seniors. Read more...

HHS Offering $1 Billion to Encourage Better Medical Care that Saves Money

Agency says Health Care Innovation Challenge will create jobs, train workers

Nov. 15, 2011 – The Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday it is making available up to $1 billion dollars to test creative ways to deliver high quality medical care and save money. Emphasis will be on innovative projects, and the Health Care Innovation Challenge will also give preference to projects that rapidly hire, train and deploy health care workers. Read more...

Affluent Seniors Could Take a Hit on Medicare in Deficit Reduction Deal

Conservatives argue that federal government shouldn’t help finance health care benefits for the rich

By Mary Agnes Carey & Marilyn Werber Serafini, KHN Staff Writers

Nov. 14, 2011 - In the scramble to come up with a deficit-reduction deal by Thanksgiving, members of Capitol Hill's super committee appear to have one group squarely in their cross hairs: high-income Medicare beneficiaries. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Medicare Changes are Part of Super Committee Republicans Deal On Tax Revenues

Health On The Hill interviews Kaiser Health News Reporter Mary Agnes Carey - video and transcript

Nov. 9, 2011 - With the deadline for a recommendation from the budget-cutting super committee drawing near, Republicans are turning their attention to Medicare. They are suggesting raising the age to join, increasing fees for some, cutting pay to healthcare providers and for drugs. Jackie Judd discusses these issues with Mary Agnes Carey, who covers the super committee of Kaiser Health News. Read more, see video...

Medicare News

Medicare Adds Free Annual Cardiovascular Discussion with Health Care Provider

Part of joint Million Heart initiative with CDC; Senior citizens and others get Medicare help in fighting number one killer

Nov. 9, 2011 - Medicare is adding coverage for a number of preventive services to reduce cardiovascular disease, including a free annual face-to-face meeting with a care provider to determine the best way to help prevent cardiovascular disease. Read more...

When TLC Doesn't Satisfy Patients or Medicare, Elite Hospitals May Pay A Price

Winning praise from patients becomes a pressing obsession for hospitals nationwide: soon Medicare will start taking patient satisfaction into account when paying hospitals

By Jordan Rau, KHN Staff Writer

Nov. 8, 2011 - "I'm a great kvetcher," said Pearl Schwartz, sitting in her hospital bed at NYU Langone Medical Center. Indeed, during her brief stay to receive a pacemaker, Ms. Schwartz, an 88-year-old retired state worker, had a litany of complaints. Read more...

Medicare Helps Seniors in Open Enrollment By Highlighting Five Star Plans

Period for changing Medicare plans open until Dec. 7; Affordable Care Act has saved seniors $1.2 billion on drugs this year

Nov. 7, 2011 - Senior citizens should be checking on the opportunities for changing to a Medicare drug or health plan that better meets their needs for 2012 during this annual Open Enrollment Period. Medicare says it is highlighting plans that have achieve an overall quality rating of five stars with a “gold star” icon on the Medicare’s Plan Finder. Read more...

Physicians Take Another Big Medicare Pay Hit; Opens Annual Congressional Battle

Obama administration has consistently fought to change 1997 law that causes annual lobbying effort by medical groups

Nov. 2, 2011 - The annual big-dollar battle over the rate of pay for physicians kicked off yesterday with a rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that set the rates for 2012 – the cut was slightly less than expected but still a gigantic 27.4 percent. The CMS rule was mandated to follow current law, although the administration is firmly against the cuts. Read more...

Medicare Cuts Payment Rates to Home Health Care Companies

About half the cut in payment rate in 2012 - 2011 was result of provision in 2010 health law that lowered the fees

By Phil Galewitz, Capsules: The KHN Blog

Nov. 2, 2011 - Medicare will cut payment rates to home health agencies by 2.3 percent in 2012 — the sixth consecutive annual decrease in fees to the industry. The decision, which will lop off an estimated $430 million from the program next year, follows concerns by a congressional advisory panel that the agencies are overpaid. Read more...

Medicare Announces Premiums for 2012, Part B Increase Just $3.50 Monthly for Most

Most senior citizens will see an increase in Social Security of about $43 in 2012, producing a gain after Part B cost of 39.50 per month

Oct. 27, 2011 – The wait is over. Medicare announced the premiums and deductibles senior citizens will be paying in 2011, which included the increase for the most expensive premium seniors pay, Part B, which many feared would wipe out the cost-of-living increase in Social Security. The news is good, at least for most seniors, the increase in Part B will be just $3.50, which barely touches the $43 COLA increase for the average senior. Read more...

More Than 25 Percent of Medicare Drug Plans Get Poor Ratings from CMS

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services putting these plans on notice: improve performance or face expulsion from Medicare

By Marilyn Werber Serafini, KHN Staff Writer

Oct. 26, 2011 - Nationally, more than a quarter of Medicare’s rated prescription drug plans that will be available to seniors in 2012 get poor ratings from federal officials. And in the Washington metro area, 36 percent rate unacceptably low, according to an analysis of Medicare data. Read more..

Social Security News

Part B: Expensive Part of Medicare May Squash COLA for Seniors

Announcement due this week - what will it mean to you?

Oct. 24, 2011 - Millions of senior wait for the other shoe to drop…the one they may squash their 2012 increase from Social Security. This year, for the first time in two years, senior citizens and others depending on Social Security will receive a cost-of-living increase for 2012. The other shoe, however, is the cost of Medicare Part B for 2012, which could wipe out the COLA gain. Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare Begins Release of Patient Safety Ratings For Hospitals

First step toward paying less to institutions with poor patient results, avoidable deaths; moves away from set payment per service

By Jordan Rau, KHN Staff Writer

Oct. 17, 2011 - Medicare has begun publishing patient safety ratings for thousands of hospitals as the first step toward paying less to institutions with high rates of surgical complications, infections, mishaps and potentially avoidable deaths. Read more...

Medicare Now Offering Free Screening, Counseling for Depression, Alcohol Misuse

New services added to a growing list of preventive services by Medicare to help seniors avoid costly care

Oct. 17, 2011 - Medicare will now cover screening for depression, as well as, alcohol misuse screening and behavioral counseling, according to a news release by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Friday. Read more...

Medicare Open Enrollment Begins Saturday; More Benefits, Better Choices, Lower Costs

Affordable Care Act gives seniors with Medicare cheaper prescription drugs, free preventive services, and lower costs, says CMS

Oct. 12, 2011 - With more benefits, better choices and lower costs, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is encouraging people with Medicare and their families to begin reviewing drug and health plan coverage options for 2012. The Medicare Open Enrollment Period - which begins earlier this year on Saturday, October 15 – has been expanded to last seven weeks and will end on December 7. Read more...

Seniors Flock to Medicare Preventive Services, Drug Discounts as Enrollment Period Opens

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month – good time for free meeting with your doctor (see Medicare Options 2012 at a glance)

Oct. 6, 2011 – With the annual period for those in Medicare to make changes in their plans about to open on October 15, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announce that 20.5 million have taken advantage of the free Annual Wellness Visit or other free preventive services this year. Another 1.8 million have received drug discounts in the Medicare Part D “donut hole” of almost $1 billion through August. Read more...

GAO Finds Abuse in Medicare Drug Program, Mostly Younger Patients Admitted for Disabilities

Less than 30% by senior citizens: of 170,000 prescribed drugs from 5 or more docs in 2008, about 120,000 (71%) were eligible for Medicare Part D based on a disability - see hearing video

Oct. 5, 2011 – Prescription drug abuse in Medicare Part D is a serious and growing public health problem, according to a Government Accountability Office report presented yesterday to a senate subcommittee hearing. The report points out, however, that over 70 percent of the abuse is not by senior citizens in the program but by younger Americans in Medicare based on a disability. Read more...

Medicare Advantage, Part D Drug Program Get Proposals for New Benefits in 2013

New rules will put into regs 50% discount for donut hole drugs, new tools stopping fraud and abuse

Oct. 4, 2011 – New rules proposed yesterday for Medicare Advantage and the prescription drug benefit program (Part D) will implement new benefits under the Affordable Care Act and increase patient protections, according to an announcement by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS). Read more...

Medicare to Pay Bonuses to Primary Care Doctors for Better Care, Efficiency

Comprehensive Primary Care initiative modeled after private health insurers

Sept. 29, 2011 - A new initiative to help primary care physicians deliver higher quality, more coordinated and patient-centered care to Medicare patients, was launched yesterday, according to Health and Human Services. Medicare will work with commercial and state health insurance plans to offer additional support to primary care doctors who better coordinate care for their patients. Read more...

Report Finds Hospitals Not Meeting Medicare Readmission Goals, Facing Penalties

Medicare to reduce payments for readmissions, exposing hospitals to considerable financial risks; first report shows stagnant performance, variations in care

Sept. 29, 2011 - As scorekeeping begins for new Medicare penalties for hospitals with excessive numbers of patients returning shortly after they are discharged, a new Dartmouth Atlas Project report shows little progress over a five-year period in reducing these hospital readmissions and improving care coordination for Medicare patients. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

How Obama Plans To Cut Medicare, Medicaid Costs By $320 Billion

Biggest cut to Medicare requires drug companies to lower their rates, saving Medicare an estimated $135 billion over 10 years- watch videos

By Phil Galewitz, KHN Staff Writer

Sept. 19, 2011 - In his plan to trim the federal deficit, President Barack Obama Monday proposed $320 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, largely by changing how the federal government pays health providers, slashing payments to drug companies, and dramatically changing the way it splits the costs of Medicaid with the states, according to a fact sheet the White House released today. Read more, see videos...

Senior Citizen Politics

Medicare Advantage Premiums Dropping 4%, Enrollment Up Despite Dire GOP Predictions

Republicans, insurance companies predicted high prices, less benefits after Obama health law

By Phil Galewitz, KHN Staff Writer

Sept. 16, 2011 - Dire predictions by insurers and Republicans that the 2010 health law would cause private Medicare health plans to raise prices and lower benefits on beneficiaries have turned out to be a false alarm — at least for now. Read more...

State Insurance Chiefs Tell Congress Don’t Make Seniors Pay More for Medicare Medigap Policies

 ‘…will also cause serious confusion for seniors with fixed incomes who rely on Medigap insurance to protect them...’

By Susan Jaffee, Kaiser Health News

Sept. 16, 2011 - State insurance commissioners are preparing some stern words of advice for members of Congress trying to reduce the federal deficit: don’t touch Medicare supplemental insurance. Read more...

2012 Medicare Advantage Premiums Drop, Enrollment Projected to Rise

‘Seniors will enjoy more free benefits and cheaper prescription drugs;’ open enrollment earlier – Oct. 15 – Dec. 7

Sept. 15, 2011 – Medicare Advantage plans will be less expensive in 2012 and the plans project enrollment will increase by 10 percent, according to an announcement today by Health and Humans Services. Read more...

2012 Medicare Handbook, Drug Plan Changes Due to You by Late September

CMS says new open enrollment period, October 15-December 7, marks important change

Sept. 15, 2011 - This year marks an important change in Medicare’s annual open enrollment, the time period during which people can choose to change plans or shift from Medicare Advantage to Traditional Medicare, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Open Enrollment starts earlier – October 15, 2011 – and lasts longer to give beneficiaries enough time to review and make changes to their coverage. Read more...

Medicare News

Private Medicare Plans Defy Predictions, Growing Despite Health Law Cuts

Medicare Advantage plans expect to earn about $41 a month per member, after paying medical expenses

By Christopher Weaver, KHN Blog

Medicare Enrollment by Type 2010Sept. 12, 2011 - The industry of private Medicare health plans is continuing to grow, despite steep cuts enacted in the 2010 federal health law, according to a report released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KHN is an editorially-independent program of the foundation). Nearly 12 million of the nation’s 47 million Medicare enrollees are now in private plans, up from 11 million last year. Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare Enrollment for Drug Plans, Medicare Advantage Earlier This Year

Open enrollment begins October 15 rather than November 15

Medicare Enrollment Opens Oct. 15 - Ends Dec. 7, 2011

Sept. 12, 2011 – Senior citizens are already receiving information on the 2012 drug plans from their Medicare Part D insurance companies. Registration for next year is coming earlier this year – it has been changed to open October 15 and end on December 7 in 2011. Read more...

Medicare Chief Berwick Turns 65, First To Join Medicare

9/09/11 - Friday is a big day for Medicare chief Donald Berwick. He turns 65 and will become the first head of the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled to be a beneficiary at the same time.

“I’m excited,” he told KHN in a pre-birthday interview Thursday. “I feel like I’m in my 20s still. I don’t feel 65. It’s going to be a great day to celebrate.”

He hopes to have his Medicare card within a few weeks, although he said he’s getting no special treatment in the application process. By Phil Galewitz, Capsules, Kaiser Health News

Medicare News

New Health Care Law Creating Big Savings for Senior Citizens: CMS Data

Through July about 1.3 million with Medicare save on donut hole drug discounts; 18.9 million get free preventive care - links to info to help you save

Sept. 8, 2011 – More senior citizens and people with disabilities on Medicare are seeing a big drop in important health care costs because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act, according news today from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Read more...

Medicare’s ABCs: Many Senior Citizens in Program for Years May Not Know Ins and Outs

Understanding the parts of Medicare matters, especially when it comes to premiums and enrollment; below are the basics

http://www.FamiliesUSA.orgAug. 31, 2011 - We’re proud of our grandchildren as they grow in knowledge, such as when they first learn their ABC’s. Unfortunately, when we qualify for Medicare, we discover that we have to learn our ABCs all over again, and it’s a lot tougher this time around. Read more...

Got Medicare? You may be paying too much

Older Americans often pick Advantage plans that cost them more

9/2/11 - Medicare Advantage plans can save older Americans money, but difficulty choosing among the many available plans often prevents them from realizing substantial cost-savings.

One in four Medicare recipients - about 11.7 million Americans - get their health-care coverage through about 3,900 Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare C. These policies are administered by private health insurers and can be significantly less expensive than pairing traditional Medicare with a Medigap plan and a prescription drug plan.

The problem is, Medicare beneficiaries don’t always choose the plan that would save them the most money. More at Market Watch by Anya Martin

Medicare News

Medigap Changes Meet Resistance from States, Insurers, Consumer Advocates

Some seniors may forego medically necessary care because they can't afford it -- even though they have a Medigap policy

By Susan Jaffe

Aug. 30, 2011 - A provision of the 2010 federal health law seeking to increase Medicare beneficiaries’ share of health care costs is meeting resistance from an unlikely group of 33 state insurance regulators, health insurers and consumer advocates charged with revising Medigap insurance policies that cover most out-of-pocket expenses. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Problem for Super Committee is Cost of Health Care: Former GOP Senator Danforth

Listen or read transcript of Kaiser Health News interview where former senator tells it like it is

Aug. 24, 2011 - Editor’s Note: Many say “Medicare is broken.” It has become a mantra for the Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who have been trying to convert the program to private insurance supported by vouchers paid to seniors. The real problem is that “Health care is broken,” not Medicare. Medicare is in trouble because of the out-of-control cost increases by drug companies and healthcare providers. Former GOP senator, John “Jack” Danforth, tells it like it is to Mary Agnes Carey, Kaiser Health News. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Group Fighting to Save Senior Citizen Benefits in Social Security, Medicare Finds An Angel - Maybe

GOP appointee to Super Committee, Rep. Fred Upton, says senior benefits should not be cut for those in program

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, Republican from MichiganAug. 20, 2011 – The group that organized earlier this year to protect the Social Security and Medicare benefits of senior citizens –the Strengthen Social Security Campaign – thinks they have found a possible critical ally in a Republican appointee to the new super committee charged with making a big dent in the deficit. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) says that current Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries should not face any reductions in benefits, according to the SSSC. Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare Advantage Programs Overwhelm Senior Citizens with Complex Choices

Elderly often have to sift through dozens of options; those with cognitive problems might benefit most from MA

Aug. 18, 2011 - In health care, more choice may not always lead to better choices, particularly for the elderly. In a new study, researchers from Harvard Medical School's Department of Health Care Policy found that the large variety of managed care plans offered by the Medicare Advantage program may be counter-productive. Elderly patients, particularly those with low cognitive ability, often make poor decisions - or no decisions at all - when faced with an overwhelming number of complex insurance choices. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Analysis: Medicare, Liberals And The Lesser Of Two Evils

Fear is that cuts would leave the elderly without adequate financial protection or access to medical care

By Jonathan Cohn

Aug. 15, 2011 - Why does the debt ceiling deal give liberals so much heartburn? Many reasons, obviously. But a big one is the possibility that it will trigger automatic cuts to Medicare, the jewel of the Great Society and the program on which virtually every senior citizen depends for health insurance. Read more...

Medicare News

Over Two Million Low-Income Seniors May Be Missing Big Savings on Drugs

Medicare’s Low-Income Subsidy is easy to check for eligibility, says CMS

Aug. 9, 2011 - Some senior citizens and others in Medicare could qualify for assistance with their prescription drug costs, and be eligible this year to pay no more than $2.50 for generic drugs and $6.30 for each brand name drug. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates more than 2 million people may be eligible for the subsidy, but are not currently enrolled. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Medicare ‘Not Just A Seniors’ Issue’ - Pollster Finds

An even more important political issue now than in the past

By Stephanie Stapleton, Capsules – The KHN Blog

Aug. 8, 2011 - Even though the health insurance program for senior citizens and the disabled survived the initial phase of the debt-ceiling deal without suffering cuts, Medicare is likely to be a target in the next round. Read more...

Medicare News

Average Cost of Medicare Drug Plans Will Not Increase in 2012, Discounts for Donut Hole

‘Obama Care’ has provided 17 million seniors with free preventive services; 900,000 received 50% discount on prescription drugs

Aug. 5, 2011 – Senior citizens got good news from the Obama administration yesterday – the average prescription drug premiums for Medicare Part D will not increase in 2012. In announcing the news Health and Human Services (HHS) added that more people with Medicare are receiving discounts on prescription drug costs and the new no-cost preventive services provided by the Affordable Care Act, which is often referred to as “Obama Care” by opponents. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Debt Deal 'Super' Committee's Impact On Health Spending Explained

Q&A: How congressional super committee's deliberations could influence Medicare and Medicaid

By Mary Agnes Carey and Phil Galewitz, KHN Staff Writers

Aug. 4, 2011 - The deal President Barack Obama and Congress struck this week to raise the nation's debt ceiling has prompted many questions about how a special "super committee" established by the law will affect federal health care programs. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Health Care Providers Scurry to Prepare for Medicare Budget Cuts to Come with Debt Deal

Social Security and Medicaid exempted from budget cuts - see video below

Aug. 2, 2011 - The Senate passed and President Obama quickly signed this afternoon the battered bill to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and begin efforts to reduce the deficit. At least one of the programs that primarily impacts senior citizens – Medicare – is certain to feel the budget axe in at least the second round of the $2 trillion in deficit reductions. Read more, see video...

Caregiver & Elder Care News

Senior Citizens Skip Drugs Due to Cost, Even if Not On Expensive Cancer Meds

Study confirms drug costs are significant barrier to effective medical treatment

Aug. 1, 2011 – Despite the high cost of drugs for cancer treatment, the cost burden may be no greater for these patients than for other senior citizens on Medicare. A new study finds one in ten of Medicare’s elderly do not stick to their prescribed medication due to the expense. Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare Prepares Rule to Penalize Hospitals With High Readmission Rates

Almost 7% of acute-care hospitals had higher-than-expected readmissions rates for heart failure, heart attack or pneumonia

By Jordan Rau, KHN Staff Writer

Aug.1, 2011 - When hospitals discharge patients, they typically see their job as done. But soon, they could be on the hook for what happens after Medicare patients leave the premises, and particularly if they are readmitted within a month. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Medicare, Medicaid Appear to Have Escaped Budget Cuts This Round: Health on the Hill

KHN Senior Correspondent Mary Agnes Carey has been investigating to understand why

July 28, 2011 - Neither the Boehner nor the Reid plans include cuts to Medicare or Medicaid. KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about why that happened and what could bring these entitlements back into the deficit-reduction conversation. Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare Drug Program Helped Seniors Become Healthier, Reduce Other Care Cost

Drug cost dropped as expected but health improved, too, for those who had not enjoyed drug coverage

July 26, 2011 - Among elderly Medicare beneficiaries with limited prior drug coverage, implementation of Medicare Part D was associated with significant reductions in nondrug medical spending, such as for inpatient and skilled nursing facility care, according to a study in the July 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA.) Read more...

Medicare News

Senior Citizens May See Changes in Medicare Medigap Policies

AARP Endorses Bill to Improve Value of Medigap Policies for Consumers - See in box

By Julie Appleby, KHN Staff Writer

July 26, 2011 - As debt limit talks drag on, lawmakers are eying possible changes in Medicare supplemental plans - moves that could increase seniors’ out-of-pocket costs. Read more...

Senior Citizen Opinions & Analysis

Sleep Problems Usually Covered by Insurance, Medicare Covering More

Medicare pay for sleep testing increased from $62 million in 2001 to $235 million in 2009; Medicare now covers dental appliance for sleep apnea

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

July 12, 2011 - The diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders have come a long way in recent years. In the past, people who snored might be advised to sew a tennis ball onto the back of their pajama top. The "snore ball" would discourage them from sleeping on their back and might quiet their droning. Read more...

Medicaid News

HHS Offers States New Ways to Improve Care, Lower Costs For Medicaid

Initiatives focus on 'Dual Eligibles,' people receiving Medicare and Medicaid benefits; often most expensive patients to cover

July 11, 2011 - Health and Human Services (HHS) Friday announced three new initiatives to help states improve the quality and lower the cost of care for the approximately nine million Americans who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (Medicare-Medicaid enrollees, sometimes referred to as “dual eligibles”). Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare Bites Bullet to Cover Expensive Provenge, Prostate Cancer Drug for Bad Cases

CMS also to continue expensive breast cancer drug, Avastin; Sipuleucel-T activates immune system to defend against prostate cancer; first approved autologus cellular immunotherapy

July 1, 2011 - Medicare patients with metastatic prostate cancer can get a first-of-its kind treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration in April, under a final coverage decision issued yesterday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Provenge (sipuleucel-T) activates a patient’s own immune system to defend him against prostate cancer. The majority of the men tested with the drug were senior citizens - age 65 or older. Read more...

Senators Lieberman, Coburn Make Statements on Their Plan to Save Medicare, Reduce Debt

Note: The following is a news release issued yesterday by Senators Joe Lieberman and Tom Coburn on a proposal to change Medicare, including a gradual increase of the age for eligibility to 67, although this is not mentioned in their release. See video statements, too.

June 29, 2011 – Today (yesterday), Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) revealed their bipartisan proposal to save Medicare and reduce the debt. The Lieberman/Coburn proposal would save more than $600 billion over 10 years, based on reviews of Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates, and up to an additional $100 billion savings from implementing the program integrity provisions. Read more...see video

Senior Citizen Politics

Lieberman-Coburn Medicare Proposal Could Stress Strapped Senior Citizens: NPR Blog

Half of seniors had income under $22,000 in 2010; 25% had income under $13,000; just 5% had incomes above $85,000.

By Julie Rovner, NPR Health Blog

June 29, 2011 - Can seniors afford to pay more for Medicare? Medicare patients would pay more - in some cases much more - under a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate today (Tuesday 6/29). But can they really afford it? Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Senate Proposal to Raise Medicare Eligibility Age Draws Quick Democrat Opposition

Proposal by Senators Coburn, Lieberman would increase eligible age to 67, save $600 billion

June 29, 2011 - As negotiations over raising the nation's debt ceiling continue, two senators - Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. - advanced a new plan to produce the amount of savings from the Medicare program need to meet the debt reduction target. The approach, though, which includes raising the eligibility age to 67, was swiftly rejected by top Democrats. Read more...

Medicare News

More Senior Citizens Using Free Medicare Preventive Care; New Push by CMS Begins

Campaign to educate seniors about new free preventive care provided by Affordable Care Act; Over 780,000 received Annual Wellness Visit between January 1 - June 10 - see video.

June 23, 2011 - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a new report showing that more than 5 million Americans with traditional Medicare - or nearly one in six people with Medicare - took advantage of one or more of the recommended preventive benefits now available for free, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. At the same time the agency launched a campaign to urge more older Americans to take advantage of the free medical exams. Read more, see video...

CMS to Make Medicare Info on Quality, Cost of Health Care Providers Available

Affordable Care Act opens opportunity for public to select better care and lower cost

June 9, 2011 - New rules have been proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to make available to U.S. consumers and employers information generated by Medicare that will enable them to select higher-quality, lower-cost physicians, hospitals and other health care providers in their area. The proposal and request for comments were published yesterday in the Federal Register. Read more...

Medicaid News

Most Americans Oppose Republican Plan to Slash Medicaid - Ultimate Senior Safety Net

(June 1, 2011) Note: The Republican plan to convert Medicare to a voucher system to buy private insurance has received considerable media attention. Not so well known is the GOP plan to slash Medicaid, the ultimate safety net for millions of senior citizens unable to care for themselves. This Kaiser News report was originally published May 25, 2011

By Phil Galewitz, KHN Staff Writer

Most Americans oppose the House Republicans’ plan to overhaul and slash funding of Medicaid, the state-federal program that covers 56 million low-income people, according to a poll being released today. Read more

Medicare Begins Moving Health Care Providers Toward Accountable Care Organizations

New Pioneer ACO Model could save Medicare up to $430 million over three years


Now Meet Medicare's


May 26, 2011 – When Medicare patients are given more effective medical care it saves money for Medicare. That is a logical deduction, since improved, healthy patients require less future care, and one that is driving the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Three of the first steps in this effort were announced recently. Read more...

Free Guide to Medicare Changes Under New Health Law from Consumer Reports

For those in Medicare or about to join, there are important changes, including new benefits, since the Affordable Care Act

May 20, 2011 – A free guide to the changes in Medicare created by the Affordable Care Act is available from Consumer Reports. The 15-page guide is easily downloaded in pdf format or can be ordered by phone. Read more...

Medicare News

Gloomier-Than-Expected Forecast for Medicare: Trustees Say Out of Money in 2024

Sluggish economy hurting but health reform helping save money for critical senior citizen program - see links to other news reports, news release from CMS below story

May 16, 2011 - Medicare will start running out of money in 2024 -- five years earlier than projected last year — as a result of the sluggish economic recovery, the program’s trustees reported Friday. Read More...

Medicare News

Job of Controlling Medicare Costs Goes to Independent Payment Advisory Board

How will the IPAB change Medicare? What does this mean to senior citizens?

By Bara Vaida, Kaiser Health News
In collaboration with The Washington Post

May 9, 2011 - It sounds like a new Apple product, but IPAB is actually a controversial board at the heart of a highly charged battle over Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly and disabled. Read more...

Medicare News

CMS Issues New Regs Making Free Flu Shots Even More Available for Senior Citizens

Remove barriers for seniors who want to receive annual flu shots as part of their Medicare preventive health routine

May 4, 2011 – Medicare has taken action to make seasonal flu vaccinations more available and suggested the new requirements for Medicare-certified providers will encourage senior citizens getting the free shots when they are at the doctor’s office for their free preventive health checkup. Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare/Medicaid Issues Infection Control Violations to 15 Percent of Nursing Homes

Strong correlation between low staffing levels and the receipt of an infection control deficiency citation

May 3, 2011 – Fifteen percent of U.S. nursing homes receive deficiency citations for infection control per year, according to a new study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of APIC - the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. Read more...

Medicare Shifting Strategy to Pay Hospitals for Quality Care Over Quantity

It is part of new “quality” emphasis in new health care bill (Affordable Care Act)

May 2, 2011 – Medicare is making a change in the strategy for payments to hospitals that will reward quality treatment rather than the quantity of care provided. The change was set in motion by the new health law, the Affordable Care Act. Following is the report by Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News on what it means to senior citizens. Read more...

Nursing Home Industry Leader Worries About Cuts To Medicare, Medicaid

Does not like Independent Payment Advisory Board in health bill; opposes GOP plan to turn Medicaid into a block grant program

By Phil Galewitz, KHN Staff Writer

Gov. Mark Parkinson, president of AHCA, talks to reportsApril 25, 2011 - Mark Parkinson, who heads the nation’s largest nursing home lobby, finds it hard to celebrate government estimates predicting an explosion in the number of Americans aged 85 and older during the next few decades. Read more...

AHCA Pushing Bill to Protect Senior Citizens' Full Access to Skilled Nursing in Medicare

Improving Access to Medicare Coverage Act of 2011 presented by Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT), Tom Latham (R-IA)

April 26, 2011 - The American Health Care Association (AHCA) on April 14 issued a news release applauding the introduction of “bipartisan” legislation in both Houses of Congress to remedy for senior citizens the “complex and confusing process resulting from observation status during a hospital stay.” Read more...

When Doctors Profit from MRI the Back Scans and Surgery Increase for Medicare Patients

‘Medicare spending alone would go down about 25 percent if self-referral were really policed or eliminated’

By Carl Sherman, Contributing Writer
Health Behavior News Service

April 26, 2011 - When doctors own or lease MRI equipment, their patients are more likely to receive scans for low back pain. Patients of orthopedists are more apt to undergo back surgery as well, according to a study published online in Health Services Research. Read more...

Senior Citizens Not Taking Advantage of Some New, Free Medicare Testing

Seniors not lining up for free mammograms, colonoscopies, but free wellness checkup is luring patients

By Susan Jaffe, Kaiser Health News, with The Washington Post

April 26, 2011 - Despite tough economic times, there are some things the government can’t give away. Starting this year, seniors enrolled in Medicare no longer have to pay for more than a dozen tests and other services to help prevent or control cancer and other costly and debilitating diseases. These benefits, which also include an annual wellness exam, are part of the new federal health-care law. Read more...

Thousands of Medicare Senior Citizens Will Be Asked to Join Study on Functional Ability

Long-term study will examine how the daily lives of older adults change as they age

April 20, 2011 - Thousands of Medicare beneficiaries will receive an invitation in May to be part of a special study looking at the impact of age-related changes on functional ability. The National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) will be seeking some 9,000 senior citizens -  aged 65 and older - to participate in this long-term study, funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Obama Budget Plan Cuts Deficit by $4 Trillion, Strengthens Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security

Around two-thirds of budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security - watch video

April 13, 2011 - President Barack Obama on Wednesday shared his plans to cut the deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years, which, according to a fact sheet distributed by the White House, includes saving $480 billion in health care costs by 2023. Obama proposes holding Medicare cost growth down by strengthening the Independent Payment Advisory Board and making Medicaid more flexible without using block grants. And, about the other program vital to senior citizens, Social Security, his fact sheet said, “No current beneficiary should see the basic benefit reduced; nor will we accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations.” Read more....

Senior Citizen Politics

Partnership for Patients to Improve Care, Lower Costs Introduced by Obama Administration

Potential savings of $50 billion for Medicare plus billions for Medicaid by improving hospital care

April 12, 2011 – The Obama administration today announced the Partnership for Patients, a national partnership aimed at saving $35 billion in health care costs – up to $10 billion for Medicare – and saving 60,000 lives by stopping millions of preventable injuries and complications in patient care over the next three years. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

President to Outline Strategy to Make Entitlements More Secure for Senior Citizens

President Obama lays out his budget reduction plan on Wednesday, to change course for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security

April 11, 2011 – Still reeling from the Republican proposal to severely cut Medicare and Medicaid and to push Medicare toward a private insurance program, senior citizens are now bracing for cost reduction proposals for entitlement programs expected on Wednesday from President Barack Obama. Read more...

Senior Citizen Opinions & Analysis

GOP Plan Replaces Medicare’s Guaranteed Benefits with ‘Premium Support’ Payment

Budget does not address root of high Medicare costs -rising costs in the entire health care sector

By Joe Baker, President, Medicare Rights Center

April 5, 2011 – The math of the proposed House budget, introduced today by Budget Committee Chairman Ryan, is really quite simple - Medicare consumers (those over 65 and people with disabilities) pay more for health care and the federal government pays a lot less. The proposal ends Medicare as we know it today, replacing Medicare’s guaranteed benefits with a “premium support” payment or voucher that consumers can use to buy private insurance. Read more...

Medicare News

Politics Heat Up In Response to GOP Budget's Medicare, Medicaid Proposals

Newspapers: 'politically risk', 'little chance', 'converts Medicare to premium support program', 'you'll need to pay a bigger share'

April 5, 2011 - The blueprint advanced today by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would attempt to rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid while squeezing $6.2 trillion dollars from the nation's deficit over the next 10 years. Newspapers seem to see a frisky political battle ahead judging from today's coverage. Read more...

Medicare News

Understanding Rep. Ryan's Plan for Medicare Based on Premium Support

September poll found 69 percent of senior citizens - people older than 65 - opposed vouchers for Medicare - see video

By Kaiser Health News Staff

April 5, 2011 - House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left many details to Congress when he unveiled his plan today to make major changes to Medicare as part of a fiscal 2012 budget resolution. He says his overall objective is to convert Medicare into a premium support program for which the government will spend a specific amount for beneficiaries' care, a fundamental shift from the current fee-for-service program. Read more, see video discussion..

Medicare News

Medicare, Medicaid Are Targets in GOP's 'Path to Prosperity' That Shifts More Costs to Seniors

Democrats say it cuts medical care to the “most vulnerable Americans”

April 5, 2011 – The Republicans sent shock waves through millions of older Americans that depend on Medicare or Medicaid with their 2012 budget proposal today that is named “Path to Prosperity,” which appears to shift more of the cost of healthcare back to the senior citizens. Democrats immediately challenged the plan, saying it would result in medical care cuts to the nation’s most vulnerable Americans. Read more...

GOP Proposals on Medicare Could Shift Costs to Senior Citizens, other Beneficiaries

This is week when Republicans show their hand for cutting Medicare, Medicaid; yesterday House Budget  Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis) gave a glimpse of what's to come; GOP hits elderly in states, too

Republicans Also Slash States' Spending on Elderly

AARP Says Texas Dishonors Elders

By Mary Agnes Carey, Kaiser Health News Staff Writer

April 4, 2011 - Amid the buzz about a possible government shutdown over this year's budget looms a more difficult question: What to do about entitlement programs, especially Medicare? Read more...

Medicare Introduces Shared Savings Program with New Accountable Care Organizations


Now Meet Medicare's


ACOs will be joint health care effort for better patient care at lower costs, says CMS

April 2, 2011 – Senior citizens have become pretty familiar with HMOs and PPOs as managed care options in the Medicare Advantage Program. Now, meet the new ACOs. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) last week introduced the Accountable Care Organizations, which CMS says will help doctors, hospital and other health care providers better coordinate care for Medicare patients. Read more...

One Retiree Health Reform Program So Popular It Will Stop Taking Applications

Early Retiree Reinsurance Program has used nearly $1.8 billion to help early retirees; nearing funding limit

April 1, 2011 – One program in the Affordable Care Act has been so successful that no more applications will be accepted after May 5. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a report yesterday showing the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program has provided nearly $1.8 billion to organizations to reduce health insurance costs for retirees and their families. Read more...

Medicare Does Not Free Some Seniors from Need to Skip High Priced Heart Drugs

Cost of heart drugs makes patients skip pills, putting themselves at risk, says Mayo Clinic study

March 30, 2011 - For more than 5 million Americans with heart failure, a critical step to better health is taking the medications they're prescribed. But many patients, including senior citizens on Medicare, fail to do so, putting themselves at greater risk of hospitalization and even death. In a study appearing in the April issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Mayo Clinic researchers found the drugs' cost is one of the biggest deterrents. Read more...

Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Senior Citizens Jumping Online to Monitor Personal Health Records

Read all about personal health records below news report , with key links

March 28, 2011 - Senior citizens, for once, are not the age group lagging behind in an online endeavor. A study to measure participation on adopting the use of online personal health records finds those patients aged 65 and older are more likely to get involved than young adults between the ages of 18 and 35. Read more...

New Free Medicare Annual Wellness Checkup Drawing Many Senior Citizens to the Doctor

New preventive services will lower Medigap costs, cost sharing; help employers and states

March 23, 2011 - The new free annual wellness visit added to Medicare coverage for senior citizens and others in the program by the Affordable Care Act has brought more than 150,000 into medical offices in less than two months, according to information released by Health and Human Services. Read more...

Agencies Join in Effort to Increase Senior Citizen Use of Preventive Services

Magnifying self-reported data for senior citizens not receiving recommended preventive services, new guide underscores need for linking community and clinical strategies focusing on the underserved

Percent of Adults Aged 65 and Older Who Reported Not Receiving Influenza Vaccination within Past Year, by Race/ Ethnicity, 2009*March 15, 2011 - Every day in America about 10,000 people turn 65. By the year 2030, roughly one out of every five Americans will be aged 65 years and older. Unfortunately, many senior citizens currently do not receive vaccinations, screenings, and other preventive services national experts recommend, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more.

Senior Citizen Opinions & Analysis

The Donald Berwick Predicament: Draws High Praise as Head of CMS but Won’t Be Confirmed

‘Universally regarded… thoughtful guy who is not partisan;’ endorsed by two former GOP heads of CMS but GOP senators say 'No'

By Harold Pollack and Christopher Lillis, M.D., Kaiser Health News

Donald Berwick, acting head of Centers for Medicare & MedicaidMarch 14, 2011 - Dr. Donald Berwick runs the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He now serves under a recess appointment that will expire at the end of this year. And, although the president could take the politically risky step of extending his tenure with another recess appointment, officially naming him to run the agency for the long haul would require Senate confirmation. News reports suggest that this won't happen. Berwick may not even receive a hearing. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

Putting Senior Citizens Back to Work Popular Way to Help Social Security Medicare

Even senior citizens like this idea and the idea for increasing eligibility age says Harris Poll

March 9, 2011 – Persuading you (senior citizens) to go back to work, or continue to work, is a popular idea with most Americans for making Medicare and Social Security more financially viable, according to a new Harris Poll. But, guess which age group likes this idea the most – older people. The public and the seniors also likes the idea of raising the age for joining these programs. Read more...

Medicare News

Study Says Medicare Cuts Will Send Hospice Industry into Profit Loss

Hospice group, NHPCO, backed study says 88 percent could have negative margins by 2019

March 7, 2011 – The profit margin for companies providing hospice care could decline from the two percent it achieved in 2008 to a negative 14 percent by 2019 due to recent cuts to Medicare reimbursements, according to the results of a survey released today by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. The independent study was commissioned by NHPCO. Read more...

Medicaid News

States May Offer Financial Rewards to Medicaid Patients to Adopt Healthier Lifestyle

HHS approves $100 million in effort to stem the growth of chronic health conditions

March 1, 2011 - Senior citizens relying on the Medicaid program for medical care may soon be offered a financial incentive to persuade them to adopt healthier behavior, such as quitting smoking or losing weight. Last week Health and Human Services said it is offering $100 million to states for this purpose. Read more...

Medicaid News

Affordable Care Act Funds to Help States Move Medicaid Patients Back to Their Homes

$4.3 billion in new funds will expand community-based alternatives to institutional long term care

Feb. 23, 2011 - States will see significant new federal support, now and in the near future, in their efforts to help move Medicaid beneficiaries out of institutions and into their own homes or other community settings Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced yesterday. Read more...

Health Law Forces Changes to Reduce Hospital Readmissions of Medicare Patients

Experts say problems might have been avoided with better handoff from hospital to people responsible for next phase of patient's recovery

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser News Network

Feb. 23, 2011 - "Welcome back" are two words you'd really rather not hear at a hospital, especially if you've just been discharged. Yet, one in five Medicare patients – primarily senior citizens - found themselves back in the hospital within 30 days of leaving it in 2003 and 2004, according to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Even more troubling is the possibility that three-quarters of those readmissions might have been prevented, as estimated in a 2007 report by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), an independent agency that advises Congress. Read more...

Expanding Medicare Fraud Strike Force Grabs 111 for $225 Million in False Billing

Doctors, nurses, health care company owners and executives among the defendants charged

Feb. 18, 2011 - The Medicare Fraud Strike Force yesterday charged 111 defendants in nine cities, including doctors, nurses, health care company owners and executives, and others, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving more than $225 million in false billing. Read more...

Medicare Projects Senior Citizens to See Big Savings on Medical Equipment, Supplies

Competitive bidding program focuses on lower costs for items like power wheelchairs, oxygen equipment, diabetic supplies – as much as 32% off

Feb. 16, 2011 – Senior citizens in Medicare could pay up to 32 percent less for certain medical equipment and supplies, such as oxygen equipment, certain power wheelchairs and mail order diabetic supplies, according to an announcement today by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Read more...

Higher Income Senior Citizens May be in For Sticker Shock on Medicare Drug Premiums

Change took effect in January extending income-related provisions to Medicare Part D

By Mary Agnes Carey, KHN Staff Writer

Feb. 14, 2011 - The Obama administration often touts the health-law provision that over the next decade will close the unpopular "doughnut hole" - a gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage. But officials rarely cite another provision, one that might cause sticker shock among some seniors. Starting this year, more affluent beneficiaries will have to pay higher premiums for their drug benefits. Read more...

Senior Citizen Politics

President Obama’s Budget Offers Health Care Cuts to Stop Big Medicare Pay Cut for Doctors

Roundup of media reports by Kaiser Health News indicates the plan ‘avoids’ tackling entitlement spending

Feb. 14, 2011 - President Barack Obama's budget plan includes a two-year Medicare "doc-fix" that uses heavy cuts in other health payments to stave-off a scheduled 25 percent reduction in Medicare physician reimbursements. Meanwhile, news outlets also report the plan "avoids" tackling entitlement spending. Read more...

Medicare News

Senior Stroke Survivors Can Not Afford Life Saving Drugs Even with Medicare Part D

11% of stroke survivors said they weren’t taking their medications as prescribed because they couldn’t afford them

Feb. 11, 2011 – Many senior citizens that have survived a stroke and are covered by Medicare’s prescription drug program – Part D – cannot afford the medications they need to prevent future strokes and other cardiovascular disease-related events, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011. Young, uninsured stroke survivors face the same obstacle. Read more...

Medicare’s New Preventive Services Provide Free Opportunity for Seniors to Stay Healthy

Affordable Care Act improvements kicked in for 2011 – Welcome to Medicare now free for senior citizens in original Medicare - see video

Click for details on Welcome to Medicare examFeb. 10, 2011 - The Affordable Care Act of 2010 has significantly expanded the "preventive services" offered to senior citizens in Medicare but most importantly the cost has virtually been eliminated. It provides an exciting opportunity for older Americans - particularly those on tight budgets - to take better care of themselves and to, hopefully, avoid or delay chronic and crippling diseases. Read more, watch video on Affordable Care Act for seniors...

Senior Citizens Still Have Until February 14 to Switch from Medicare Advantage Plans

Changes is back to Original Medicare and drug plan rather than managed care

Feb. 9, 2011 – Senior citizens that chose a Medicare Advantage Plan and have found it is not a good fit for their needs, still have a chance to switch back to Original Medicare. The Medicare Advantage Disenrollment Period runs until February 14. Read more...

Lowering the Co-Pays for Mental Health Care Does Not Move Senior Citizens to Seek Help

Seniors in Medicare Advantage plans not motivated by rather large increases or decreases in co-pays for outpatient mental health care

Feb. 8, 2011 – Senior citizens with mental health conditions and enrolled in a managed care plan – Medicare Advantage – are not enticed to seek mental health care by lowering the co-pays required. The Affordable Care Act has forced a lowering of outpatient mental health co-pays to the same as required for other care in hopes of helping more seniors receive help. Read more...

Social Security News

Nearly Half of Senior Citizens Receiving Smaller Social Security Checks in 2011

New survey finds lack of COLA hurting seniors as over 60% see their expenses rise, Medicare premiums reduce checks

Feb. 3, 2011 - Forty-four percent of seniors are receiving lower Social Security checks this year compared to 2010, while even more are dealing with significantly higher expenses. The findings come from an annual survey of elderly Americans, released earlier today by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), which claims to be one of the nation's largest nonpartisan senior citizens advocacy groups. Read more...

Medicare News

Medicare Wants to be Sure Senior Citizens Know Where to File Health Care Complaints

CMS proposes rule requiring providers to give seniors and other beneficiaries written notice of their rights

Feb. 2, 2011 – Medicare thinks senior citizens and other beneficiaries should be informed about their right to have their beef heard, when they have concerns about the quality of care they receive from health care providers in the Medicare program. Read more...

Medicaid News

States May Face Showdown With Feds Over Cutting Medicaid Rolls, Many Seniors

Elderly and disabled account for majority of Medicaid spending… good chunk used for long term care; Medicare has cost-cutting suggestions

By Marilyn Werber Serafini and Julie Appleby, KHN Staff Writers

Jan. 31, 2011 - Financially strapped governors, Congress and the Obama administration could be headed for a showdown over the Medicaid health care program that covers 48 million poor, disabled and elderly people nationwide. Read more...

Obama Administration Abruptly Pulls Plug on Medicare End-of-Life Counseling

Original sponsor of provision intends to reintroduce legislation allowing Medicare to pay for such discussions with doctors that many view as helpful to critically ill seniors

Jan. 10, 2011 - Three days after enacting a Medicare regulation that would have reimbursed doctors for discussing end-of-life planning with patients during their annual checkups, the Obama administration has reversed course and last week withdrew the regulation, according to a report in ElderLawAnswers.com. Read more...


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